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Afghanistan War Weekly: July 18, 2010


This week’s main event will be the conference of leaders from some 60 countries to be held in Kabul beginning Tuesday, July 20. Described as the most important such gathering since the war began, the stated purpose of the conference is to assess the progress that the Karzai government has made toward meeting the goals set out at a conference of international donors (mostly the US, EU, and Japan) that took place in London last January.

By any objective standards, the Karzai government has failed to meet any of the goals from last January, whether in terms of democratization, financial management, government transparency, etc. Nor is the government riding a wave of military victories. To the contrary, it would appear that Karzai/NATO is at best not losing, and attempts to train Afghan security forces have largely failed. Yet the war managers must somehow use the conference to persuade the EU – and the US Congress and the US people – that everything is under control. This will be a difficult task, and it will be interesting to see if the US mainstream media – usually so accommodating to the war effort – will perceive that all is not well. For contrast, check out Aljazeera’s newscasts; you can sign up and watch via your computer at www.livestation.com.

If you are short of time this week, I especially recommend the two “featured essays” just below; the Q&A with ace reporter Anand Gopal; Nick Turse’s essay on civilian casualties, and the in-depth report on attempts to reach hearts and minds in the outskirts of Kandahar, by Washington Post reporter Karen Brulliard.

I would appreciate receiving suggestions about good articles to link here, and also comments (pro & con) that would help to make this newsweekly better. My email is fbrodhead@aol.com. This “issue” and some previous editions of the Afghanistan War Weekly are posted on the websites of United for Peace and Justice (www.unitedforpeace.org) and War is a Crime (www.afterdowningstreet.org/aww).

----Frank Brodhead, Concerned Families of Westchester (NY)

FEATURED ESSAYS
Unlike Iraq, dressing retreat up as success will be difficult

Patrick Cockburn, The Independent [UK] [July 18, 2010]

---- The greatest difficulty facing the US and Britain in Afghanistan is not that the Taliban is very strong, but that the Afghan government is very weak. This does not seem to be changing, and it is this that creates difficulties in making concrete plans and dates for an American and British withdrawal. … The greatest difficulty facing the US and Britain in Afghanistan is not that the Taliban is very strong, but that the Afghan government is very weak. This does not seem to be changing, and it is this that creates difficulties in making concrete plans and dates for an American and British withdrawal. http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/patrick-cockburn-unlik...

Why Are We in Afghanistan?

By Tom Engelhardt, TomDispatch [July 11, 2010]

---- July 12, 2011, Washington, D.C. – In triumphant testimony before a joint committee of Congress in which he was greeted on both sides of the aisle as a conquering hero, Gen. David Petraeus announced the withdrawal this month of the first 1,000 American troops from Afghanistan. … By every available measure – IEDs or roadside bombs, suicide attacks, Taliban assassinations of local officials, allied casualties, and Afghan civilian casualties – the intensity of the insurgency has weakened significantly. The Afghan military and police, though not capable of taking the lead in the fighting in their own country, have been noticeably strengthened by American and NATO training missions. President Hamid Karzai’s government, still considered weak and corrupt, has succeeded in putting an Afghan face on the war.

--- Okay, it hasn’t happened yet – and the odds are it never will. But for a moment, just imagine stories like that leading the news nationwide as our most political general in generations comes home to a grateful Washington. http://original.antiwar.com/engelhardt/2010/07/11/why-are-we-in-afghanis...

THE KABUL CONFERENCE – JULY 20, 2010
Introduction

The conference to be held in Kabul beginning Tuesday will be the eighth international conference on Afghanistan, once again attempting to the give the US/NATO puppet government some kind of legitimacy, to coerce President Karzai to act according to his masters’ wishes, and to reassure international donors (mostly the US and the EU, and their populations) that money spent in Afghanistan will be well managed.

What appears to the be the main conference document has already been leaked, with its contents summarzied in today’s newspapers (see below). While the agenda is purportedly drawn up by the Karzai government, we can assume US authorship. Karzai’s main goal is to have a larger proportion of international aid, up to 50 percent, flow through his government, rather than going directly to NGO or IMF, etc. projects. For his part, he is claiming that responsibility for security can be “handed off” to his government by 2014, with the main body of NATO troops returning home. (Most of the larger suppliers of troops have already floated exit dates much sooner than this.)

There is opposition in both the US and the European Union to continue giving Karzai’s government a blank check. A US congressional subcommittee has put a “hold” on funding for infrastructure, etc. until the US GAO has made an audit of money spent so far. This action was prompted by an article in the Wall Street Journal last week that described pallets of US currency being put on planes to be flown out of Afghanistan. For its part, the European Union has decided to postpone the scheduled release of some 600 million euros until the fall, presumably reflecting skepticism that the money will be well spent.

Other issues to be discussed at the Kabul conference include trying to find a formula acceptable to all that will cover over disagreements about how and with whom to negotiate a truce, demilitarization, and peace plans. The US continues to push for “reintegrating” lower-level Taliban, and vast sums of money have been pledged to assist this. The US opposes what Karzai calls “reconciliation,” meaning negotiations leading to some kind of peace and perhaps power sharing with the armed opposition. This week’s proposal by General Petraeus and Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Carl Levin to put the “Haqqani Network” and the “Quetta Shura” [Taliban] on the US terrorist list – and thus forbidding dealings with them – is presumably part of this disagreement. Karzai has reportedly had face-to-face meetings with the Haqqani network, which is supported/brokered by Pakisan, and the third in a series of conferences sponsored by the Haqqani network and representatives of the Karzai government is scheduled in the Maldives Islands next month. To read more on this subject, see “negotiating with the armed opposition,” below.

Official - Troops out of Afghanistan by 2014

By Jonathan Owen and Brian Brady, The Independent [UK] [July 18, 2010]

---- British troops are to pull out of Afghanistan by 2014, under a secret blueprint for drawing down coalition forces that is set to begin in a matter or months, it emerged last night. A leaked communiqué – a copy of which has been seen by The Independent on Sunday – reveals how President Hamid Karzai will announce the timetable for a "conditions-based and phased transition" at the International Conference on Afghanistan to be held in Kabul on Tuesday. … The announcement is one of many issues surrounding development and governance that will be addressed at the conference, as well as an $800m (£523m) five-year Afghan peace and reintegration programme that "aims to reintegrate in five years up to 36,000 ex-combatants and to reach 4,000 communities in 220 districts of 22 provinces". The document also outlines short-term goals for coalition troops. These include combating the opium trade by maintaining the provinces that are currently free of drug cultivation, and increasing the number of poppy-free provinces in Afghanistan to 24 within 12 months. It also describes transparent elections in future as a matter of paramount importance. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/official-troops-out-of-afgh...

Afghan government seeking bigger slice of aid pie

By David Fox, Reuters [July 12, 2010]

KABUL---- Afghanistan will ask for more control of billions of dollars pledged to reconstruct the war-torn country at a major international conference this month. Critics accuse the government of squandering millions in foreign aid, but President Hamid Karzai says most waste occurs on development projects outside official control, and he wants direct access to more of the $13 billion pot. The Kabul Conference, scheduled for July 20-21, will draw foreign ministers from more than 60 nations to Afghanistan, including U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, to review government projects the international community hopes will kick start the economy. http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE66B0GK20100712

Plan to persuade 36,000 Taliban to lay down their arms

By Ben Farmer, Telegraph [UK] [July 12, 2010]

----The Afghan government has been working with British and American Nato generals on the proposals which will be implemented with hundreds of millions of pounds of foreign aid. The plan will be agreed at the Kabul international conference next week when at least 39 world foreign ministers will meet in the Afghan capital to try and push a peace and reconstruction plan. A draft conference communiqué seen by The Daily Telegraph says an international trust fund will be used to bankroll an Afghan Peace and Reintegration Program. The scheme "aims to reintegrate in five years up to 36,000 ex-combatants and to reach 4,000 communities in 220 districts of 22 provinces", it says.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/afghanistan/7886021/Plan-...

THE WAR IN WASHINGTON
The Crematorium of Empires

By David Swanson, War Is A Crime.org [July 16, 2010]
---- On Wednesday U.S. senators from both political parties asked the president's representative to Afghanistan Richard Holbrooke what in the world the goal could be for the ongoing war. He had no answer. Senator Russ Feingold pointed out that our ambassador, Karl Eikenberry, opposed the escalation (at least until he agreed to oppose his own views). Holbrooke had no response. Senator John Kerry noted that Taliban assassinations in Kandahar began when the United States announced a coming assault there. How then could the assault stop the killings? Holbrooke had no explanation. I was reminded of General Stanley McChrystal's comment at a press conference in Washington together with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. A reporter asked if those who helped the US forces tended to get their heads sliced off. McChrystal replied that they did but that this was only to be expected. Senator Kerry on Wednesday noted that the assault on Marja had been a test for Kandahar and had failed. So why was an assault on Kandahar moving ahead? Who knows. Not Holbrooke. Senators pointed out that terrorism has been increasing globally during the global war on terror. Holbrooke did not dispute it. http://www.zcommunications.org/the-crematorium-of-empires-by-david-swanson

Casey: U.S. Could be at War Another Decade

CBS News

---- General George Casey, the Chief of Staff of the Army, said today the United States could face another "decade or so" of persistent conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan. In two months, the U.S. will have been at war in Afghanistan for nine years. The four-star general said the U.S. military moved beyond conventional warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan "long ago," and that the focus is now on the people. Casey highlighted job, education and economic growth as essential to success in Iraq and Afghanistan. http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-20010184-503544.html

Secretary Gates agrees to work on war message in meeting with GOP senators

By Alexander Bolton, The Hill [July 16, 2010]

---- President Obama has a problem with mixed messages about when American troops will leave Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Robert Gates told Senate Republicans. At a meeting on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, Republicans complained about inconsistency among political, policy and military leaders in the administration, telling Gates this cast doubt on U.S. military resolve. Gates agreed and pledged to do what he could to fix the problem. http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/109169-secretary-gates-agrees...

Poor grades to watchdog for Afghan reconstruction

Larry Margasak, Associated Press [July 16, 2010]
---- The inspector general investigating fraud, waste and abuse in the $51 billion Afghanistan reconstruction program has received a failing grade from his peers. The council of government auditors who reviewed the work asked Attorney General Eric Holder to consider suspending or rescinding law enforcement powers of the Afghanistan reconstruction watchdog. The United States has committed $51 billion to Afghanistan reconstruction since 2001, and plans to raise the amount to $71 billion over the next year. http://wire.antiwar.com/2010/07/16/poor-grades-to-watchdog-for-afghan-re...

Congress Wants More Scrutiny of US Spending in Afghanistan

By Reid Davenport, McClatchy Newspapers [July 16, 2010]

---- Members of a House subcommittee drilled three U.S. agencies Thursday for not tracking billions in U.S. money invested in the rebuilding of Afghanistan since 2002. After reports of more than $3 billion being smuggled out of Kabul's airport since 2007 and that Afghanistan ranks as the second-most corrupt country in the world, lawmakers demanded to know where their constituents' money is going. To approve the pending appropriation of another $3.9 billion for Afghanistan now would "(undermine) our civil-military mission and our responsibility to ensure Americans' hard-earned tax dollars are not squandered or mismanaged," said Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., the chairwoman of the Appropriations State and Foreign Operations subcommittee…. Since 2002, the U.S. has spent over $51 billion on Afghan reconstruction, with $20 billion of that spent within the past two years. Now, with watchdog reports on the inadequacies of Afghan forces and the benchmarks used to measure their progress, the committee established that it would not be a rubber stamp for more Afghan appropriations. http://www.truth-out.org/congress-wants-more-scrutiny-us-spending-afghan...

US Casualties in Afghanistan

According to the website www.icasualties.org, there have been 241 US soldiers killed in 2010 and 1,118 killed since the war began. The number killed in June, 60, was the highest monthly total since the war began. (As was the total for the Coalition as a whole: 103 killed.) According to the DoD monthly report, 517 US soldiers were wounded in June. So far in July 2010, 39 US soldiers have been killed and a total of 56 Coalition soldiers have been killed. Monthly US casualties have been running approximately twice what they were in 2009. 32 US soldiers committed suicide in June, bringing the total for 2010 to 145.

U.S. Contractor Deaths Soaring in Afghanistan

Kristina Wong, ABC News [July 17, 2010]

---- New statistics on U.S. contractor deaths in Afghanistan were released earlier this week. They show that U.S. contractor deaths are soaring, from 189 last June 30th since the war began in 2001, to 521 this June 30th – an increase of 175% in just one year. These numbers include armed private security contractors, as well as those working on development programs, who are American, Afghan and third-country nationals working under a U.S. contract. http://blogs.abcnews.com/politicalpunch/2010/07/us-contractor-deaths-soa...

Cost of the War in Afghanistan
According to the website www.costofwar.com, the amount of money expended in Afghanistan to date is more than $284 billion. For information on the amount of money appropriated, etc., see Susan Cornwell,
“A look at the costs of Afghan war to U.S. taxpayers,” Reuters [July 16, 2010] http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSN1519055720100716

US Public Opinion

54% Want Afghan Exit, but Petraeus Could Nix Peace Talks with Terror Naming

Robert Naiman, Huffington Post [July 15, 2010]

---- The majority of Americans want the Obama Administration to establish a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, CBS News reports. 54% think the U.S. should set a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, with 41% opposed. Among Democrats, 73% think the U.S. should set a timetable, with 21% opposed; among independents, 54% support a withdrawal timetable, with 40% opposed; among Republicans, 32% support a withdrawal timetable, with 66% opposed.

Two weeks ago today, Members of the House of Representatives were polled on a similar proposition, when the House voted on an amendment introduced by Rep. Jim McGovern [D-MA], Rep. David Obey [D-WI], and Rep. Walter Jones [R-NC] that would have required the President to establish a timetable for the redeployment of U.S. military forces in Afghanistan. That amendment failed, with 153 Democrats, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi, voting yes, and 98 Democrats voting no; while 9 Republicans voted yes and 162 Republicans voted no. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-naiman/54-want-afghan-exit-but-p_b_...

To read the CBS poll, go to http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-20010459-503544.html

THE WAR IN KABUL
Ethnic divide threatens in Afghanistan

By Laura King, Los Angeles Times [July 17, 2010]

---- Unconvinced of the United States' staying power in Afghanistan, Karzai is seeking a rapprochement with the Taliban movement, with the ultimate goal of drawing it into the political process. But his overtures have raised alarm among those who fear such a result could realign power along ethnic lines. The Taliban movement is drawn almost solely from Afghanistan's largest ethnic group, the Pashtuns. And leaders of the country's other significant minorities — Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras — are worried they may be left out in the cold as Karzai moves to woo insurgents and consolidate his base of support among fellow Pashtuns. Amid a growing sense of a power structure in flux, ethnic politics have moved to the fore. http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-afghan-ethnic-tensio...

See also: Adrian Croft, “NATO not winning Afghan hearts and minds: poll,” Reuters [July 16, 2010]

http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE66F4Q820100716

Behind the Lines: southern Afghanistan

Q&A with Anand Gopal, Foreign Policy [July 12, 2010]

1. Ahmed Wali Karzai, Afghan president Hamid Karzai's half-brother, is a well-known and controversial power broker in southern Afghanistan. Aside from him, who are the other major players in the area? What are their relationships with the Afghan central government and the coalition, the insurgency, and each other?

2. Kandahar shares a long border with Pakistan's Baluchistan province. What is the relationship between Pakistani and Afghan militants in southern Afghanistan, and how does the Chaman border checkpoint function on daily basis?

3. Special Operations forces carry out an average of five raids per day, mostly in southern Afghanistan, one result of which is that the average age of Taliban fighters has dropped from mid-40s to mid-20s, according to the New York Times. What impact does this demographic change have on the insurgency, and what other effects does the increase in operations have? http://afpak.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2010/07/12/afpak_behind_the_lines_s...

NEGOTIATIONS WITH THE ARMED OPPOSITION

Taliban talks 'pose risk' for women

By Andrew Wander and Gregg Carlstrom, Aljazeera [July 2010]

---- Human rights advocates fear that a renewed interest from the Afghan government in political reconciliation with the Taliban could erase the fragile progress made in improving the situation of Afghan women over the past nine years in return for peace. Officially, the Taliban say they are not interested in a peace deal with the government. But behind the scenes, insurgent leaders are said to have held meetings with government officials, sparking fears of a possible return to the brutal repression of women that came to define the Taliban's time in power. "We are a little bit confused," said Fatana Gailani, the chairperson of the Afghanistan Women's Council, in an interview from Kabul. "One day the government says one thing, one day they say another. And the international community, too, does not have a single policy." http://english.aljazeera.net/focus/2010/07/201071373152343368.htm

To read the HRW Report, “The Ten-Dollar Talib,” go to: http://www.hrw.org/en/reports/2010/07/13/ten-dollar-talib-and-women-s-ri...

Karzai to push for removing up to 50 ex-Taliban officials from U.N. blacklist

By Colum Lynch and Joshua Partlow, Washington Post [July 12, 2010]

---- Afghan President Hamid Karzai plans to seek the removal of up to 50 former Taliban officials from a U.N. terrorism blacklist -- more than a quarter of those on the list -- in a gesture intended to advance political reconciliation talks with insurgents, according to a senior Afghan official. The Afghan government has sought for years to delist former Taliban figures who it says have cut ties with the Islamist movement. But the campaign to cull names from the list, which imposes a travel ban and other restrictions on 137 individuals tied to the Taliban, has taken on renewed urgency in recent weeks as Karzai has begun to press for a political settlement to Afghanistan's nearly nine-year-old conflict. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/07/11/AR201007...

See also: Deb Riechmann, ”UN: 10 could be lifted off Taliban sanctions list,” Associated Press [Jul 12, 2010]. http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100713/ap_on_re_as/as_afghan_taliban_blacklist

U.S. May Label Pakistan Militants as Terrorists

By Mark Landler and Thom Shanker, New York Times [July 14, 2010]

----The new American military commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David H. Petraeus, is pushing to have top leaders of a feared insurgent group designated as terrorists, a move that could complicate an eventual Afghan political settlement with the Taliban and aggravate political tensions in the region. …Such a move could risk antagonizing Pakistan, a critical partner in the war effort, but one that is closely tied to the Haqqani network. It could also frustrate the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, who is pressing to reconcile with all the insurgent groups as a way to end the nine-year-old war and consolidate his own grip on power. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/14/world/asia/14diplo.html

See also: Karen DeYoung, “Sen. Levin urges State Department to put Afghan Taliban on list of terror groups,” Washington Post [July 14, 2010] http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/07/13/AR201007...

(Video) Intergrating former Afghan fighters

Aljazeera [July 17, 2010] – 3 minutes

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mk6DFWqxgZI&feature=player_embedded

TRAINING THE AFGHAN ARMED FORCES
Karzai approves village defense forces

By Rajiv Chandrasekaran and Joshua Partlow, Washington Post [July 14, 2010]

---- Afghan President Hamid Karzai has approved a U.S.-backed plan to create local defense forces across the country in an attempt to generate new grassroots opposition to the Taliban, U.S. and Afghan officials said Wednesday. The plan Karzai approved calls for the creation of as many as 10,000 "community police" who would be controlled and paid by the Interior Ministry, according to a senior Afghan government official. U.S. military officials said the community police program would be modeled upon a set of local defense units, called the Afghan Public Protection Police, created over the past year in Wardak province by U.S. Special Forces. "It's a community watch on steroids," said a U.S. military official in Kabul. http://voices.washingtonpost.com/checkpoint-washington/2010/07/karzai_ap...

Bloodbath at Patrol Base 3 leaves Afghan strategy in doubt

By Kim Sengupta in Nahr-e-Saraj, Helmand, The Independend [July 14, 2010]

---- Yesterday's murderous assault on the three men of the Royal Gurkha Rifles regiment at the Nahr-e-Saraj district of Helmand Province sent shockwaves through the military. It was the second such attack by a trusted Afghan soldier in under a year. Five British soldiers died last November in another part of Helmand, when an Afghan soldier they were training opened fire. The repeat incident will fuel fears that the key to the West's "exit strategy", gradually handing over security to the Afghans, will be undermined by an "enemy within". http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/bloodbath-at-patrol-base-3-...

THE WAR ON THE GROUND
Afghan attacks kill 8 US soldiers in 24 hours

By Mirwais Khan, Associated Press [July 14, 2010]

---- Eight American troops died in attacks in southern Afghanistan, including a car bombing and gunfight outside a police compound in Kandahar, officials said Wednesday as the Taliban push back against a coalition effort to secure the volatile region. A suicide attacker slammed a car bomb into the gate of the headquarters of the elite Afghan National Civil Order Police late Tuesday in Kandahar, a NATO statement said. Minutes later, insurgents opened fire with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades. Three U.S. troops, an Afghan policeman and five civilians died in the attack, but NATO said the insurgents failed to enter the compound. The special police unit, known as ANCOP, had only recently been dispatched to Kandahar to set up checkpoints along with international forces to try to secure the south's largest city, the spiritual birthplace of the Taliban. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/07/14/AR201007...

Taliban attacks in Afghanistan show growing sophistication

Dion Nissenbaum, McClatchy Newspapers [July 15, 2010]

---- The attack this week on a major Afghan police base in Kandahar that killed nine — including three American soldiers — was the best planned and most advanced that U.S. soldiers who fought it off have seen in the past year, U.S. military officials said Thursday. …The assault began Tuesday night when at least three attackers blew up the rear wall of the elite police compound in a Taliban-saturated part of Kandahar. As Afghan and American forces inside the base rushed to fend off the attack, Taliban fighters fired rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns during a half-hour battle that killed three American soldiers, one Afghan police officer and five Afghans working with the U.S.-led coalition forces, NATO officials said. The assault — which involved at least three Taliban suicide bombers — was the latest in a series of well-planned Taliban strikes that are forcing American and Afghan forces to adapt. The past two months, Taliban fighters have used similar tactics to hit major coalition military bases in Kandahar, Bagram and Jalalabad. http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2010/07/15/97631/taliban-attacks-in-afghanist...

See also: BBC, “The Afghan-Pakistan militant nexus” [good map] http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/7601748.stm; PBS Frontline, “Afghanistan: Fight for the Korengal Valley,” [60 minutes] broadcast in November 2009, but still relevant/interesting. http://www.pbs.org/frontlineworld/stories/pakistan802/iwitness/rubin.html; and Yaroslav Trofimov, “U.S. Rebuilds Power Plant, Taliban Reap a Windfall,” Wall Street Journal. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000142405274870454500457535299424274701... and

THE “PACIFICATION” OF MARJA
Afghanistan replaces head of troubled Marjah

Associated Press [July 14, 2010]

---- The Afghan government has replaced its representative in the troubled southern district of Marjah, barely six months after a major military offensive retook it from the Taliban. A spokesman for Helmand province says that Haji Zaher has been replaced as district chief as part of a "reform procedure." Zaher said Wednesday that he was told of the decision earlier this week and he has already introduced his replacement, Abdul Mutalib. Provincial spokesman Daoud Ahmadi would not say if Zaher was removed because of continued instability in Marjah. The southern farming town was intended to be a showcase of good Afghan governance after combined Afghan and international forces expelled the Taliban, but authorities have struggled to consolidate their control. http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5gso_zNPq8F3dcfkXexTv3s...

THE OFFENSIVE IN KANDAHAR
Introduction

The US/NATO offensive against the Taliban’s stronghold in Kandahar, postponed from earlier this summer, will begin at the end of July, according to Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, who recently toured Afghanistan and Pakistan. It will supposedly involve more than 5,000 Afghan troops and more than 4,000 US/NATO troops. The McChrystal/Petraeus formula has put pre-combat community building on the front burner; but as noted in the article just below, this is really going nowhere. After the failure of the Marjah “invasion,” supposedly a warm-up for Kandahar, should we conclude that this is a desperation move on the part of Obama/Petraeus?

In targeting Taliban stronghold, U.S. depends on Afghans' reluctant support

By Karin Brulliard, Washington Post [July 16, 2010]
---- The battle for this rural Taliban stronghold is not about killing insurgents, U.S. military officials say. It is about getting the new district governor to stop the grenades. Soon after Karim Jan assumed the post [of mayor] in June, the explosives began sailing over mud walls and onto U.S. troops patrolling the labyrinth of Senjaray, the biggest town in a district that U.S. officials say is under near-complete Taliban control. Two weeks later, five soldiers had been wounded in a half-dozen strikes. …As thousands of new U.S. troops push into Kandahar city and nearby villages, their focus is on propping up inexperienced local leaders such as Jan. The aim is to persuade the population to defy the Taliban and back the weak Afghan government at its lowest levels -- a mission sure to be watched closely for signs of progress during the Obama administration's war review in December. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/07/15/AR201007...

US military build-up in Kandahar will bolster Taliban, warns security monitor

Jon Boone, The Guardian [UK] [July 18, 2010]

---- The US military build-up in Kandahar is likely to further strengthen the hold of the Taliban over the vital southern Afghanistan city, a highly respected security organisation said today in a bleak report warning of record Taliban violence and rising civilian deaths across the country. The report by the Afghanistan NGO Security Office, which monitors trends in violence on behalf of aid organisations, said Nato's counter-insurgency strategy was not showing any signs of succeeding amid rising violence, the unchecked establishment of local militias and a huge increase in attacks on private development workers across the country. It revealed that June marked a record for Taliban attacks – up 51% on the previous year to 1,319 operations. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/jul/18/kandahar-us-military-taliban...

CIVILIAN CASUALTIES
American War Versus Real War

By Nick Turse and Tom Engelhardt, TomDispatch [July 14, 2010]

---- Body armor, drone warfare, ultra-rapid medevacs, and a host of other technological innovations, not to mention battling tiny numbers of relatively weak, ill-armed, and generally unpopular guerrillas, has meant that Junger’s new model military can fight its wars with minimal American casualties and, so far, less upset at home (or even perhaps in the field). Today, the numbers of dead Americans like Juan S. Restrepo, the medic for whom the outpost in Junger’s film was named, remain relatively few compared, at least, to Vietnam. Just over 1,100 U.S. troops have died in and around Afghanistan since 2001. On the other hand, who knows how many Afghan civilians have died over that span, thanks to everything from insurgent IEDs, suicide attacks, and beheadings to U.S. air strikes, special operations forces’ night raids, and road checkpoint shootings, not to speak of every other hardship the American war in Afghanistan has unleashed, exacerbated, or intensified? Who knows their stories? http://original.antiwar.com/engelhardt/2010/07/13/american-war-versus-re...

(Video) Afghanistan violence soars

Zeina Khodr, Aljazeera [July 17, 2010]

---- More than a thousand civilians have been killed in the war in Afghanistan this year alone, an Afghan rights group has reported. The Afghanistan Rights Monitor said recent statistics show more than 1,000 civilians were killed in the first six months of 2010, with over half of them dying in suicide attacks and roadside bombings. Among those killed and injured were children. http://english.aljazeera.net/news/asia/2010/07/2010716135511780796.html

PAKISTAN/INDIA AND THE AFGHANISTAN WAR
Pakistan, Afghanistan Sign Major Trade Agreement

By Jay Solomon and Alan Cullison, Wall Street Journal [July 18, 2010]

---- Pakistan and Afghanistan signed a cross-border trade agreement, decades in the making, that the Obama administration hopes will significantly reduce tensions between the historic rivals and aid the war against al Qaeda and the Taliban. The transit-trade pact could bolster Afghanistan's war-ravaged economy by opening dozens of new roads into Pakistan and two new ports, through which Afghan farmers and merchants can export their products to the region, said officials involved in the negotiations. U.S. officials view the deal as much as a strategic asset as an economic one, facilitating greater cooperation between Islamabad and Kabul on issues related to the military campaign against the Taliban. The new pact could provide economic incentives for the two neighbors to pursue a broader regional peace, said U.S. officials Sunday. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000142405274870487500457537502427286732...

Distrust Slows U.S. Training of Pakistanis

By Eric Schmitt and Jane Perlez, New York Times [July 12, 2010]

---- The recent graduation ceremony here for Pakistani troops trained by Americans to fight the Taliban and Al Qaeda was intended as show of fresh cooperation between the Pakistani and American militaries. But it said as much about its limitations. Nearly 250 Pakistani paramilitary troops in khaki uniforms and green berets snapped to attention, with top students accepting a certificate from an American Army colonel after completing the specialized training for snipers and platoon and company leaders. But this new center, 20 miles from the Afghanistan border, was built to train as many as 2,000 soldiers at a time. The largest component of the American-financed instruction — a 10-week basic-training course — is months behind schedule, officials from both sides acknowledge, in part because Pakistani commanders say they cannot afford to send troops for new training as fighting intensifies in the border areas. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/12/world/asia/12training.html?_r=1&hp

Lashkar main Taliban ally in Afghanistan: US forces

Indrani Bagchi, TNN, Jul 12, 2010, 02.21am IST

[FB – In addition to whatever truth-value this story has, it illustrates the place of Afghanistan in what India sees as the more important conflict in the region, its rivalry with Pakistan.]

---- US forces in Afghanistan are increasingly naming Lashkar-e-Taiba as one of the chief Taliban allies that they are fighting in that country. It is the latest confirmation that the LeT has morphed into a transnational jihadi force. Lashkar also embodies the complex relationship that Pakistan and US have in this war, as LeT remains Pakistan's favourite terror group to be used against India. However, Hafiz Saeed's outfit has grown over the years to become a pan-Islamic jihad group, including training Al Qaida and Taliban operatives at its training camps. http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Lashkar-main-Taliban-ally-in-Af...

Separatist strike cripples Kashmir

Aljazeera [July 13, 2010]

---- A strike called by separatists in Indian-administered Kashmir has forced shops and businesses to close for a third successive day. Tuesday also witnessed more protests as both separatists and pro-Indian Kashmiris observed "Martyrs' Day" to commemorate the killing of 21 Muslims by guards of the erstwhile king during an uprising in 1931. Kashmir has been rocked by anti-Indian protests and strikes since nearly a month. At least 15 people have died mostly in shootings blamed on police and paramilitary soldiers. With tensions running high in Kashmir, there is increased interest in high-level talks that India and Pakistan are to have on Thursday, the highest-level contact between the two countries since New Delhi broke off normalisation talks with Islamabad over the attack on its financial capital, Mumbai, in November 2008. http://english.aljazeera.net/news/asia/2010/07/2010713145031794130.html

See also: Robert Grenier, “Losing Kashmir,” Aljazeera [July 14, 2010].

http://english.aljazeera.net/focus/2010/07/201071363918664985.html; and Hafsa Kanjwal, “Voice from Kashmir,” Foreign Policy [July 12, 2010] http://afpak.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2010/07/12/voice_from_kashmir

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